To ensure you are getting the right answers about asthma, the team at Sentara Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Specialists provides these tips about asthma and the steps you can take to seek treatment.

Know the facts about asthma

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If you or a loved one suffers from asthma, you probably have a few questions. For starters, you may be wondering what kind of healthcare provider specializes in asthma? Or, how do you minimize asthma attacks?

To ensure you are getting the right answers, the team at Sentara Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Specialists has provided some useful tips about asthma and the steps you can take to seek treatment.

What causes asthma?

In many cases, patients are born with asthma. It is a disease of airway inflammation that can have acute episodes of bronchospasm, which constricts the airway and makes it very difficult to breath. Classically, asthmatics wheeze, but some also cough. Often, children’s asthma improves after puberty, but can return in later life. Other patients will develop asthma during adulthood, sometimes after an acute lung infection such as pneumonia or bronchitis; other times after exposure to noxious chemicals. In some cases, though, there is no apparent cause for asthma.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

The classic asthma symptom is wheezing. This is a harsh, squeaking sound on inhalation or exhalation. However, patients may also experience chronic cough or plain shortness of breath.

What exactly is an asthma attack?

An asthma attack is an acute spasm of the breathing tubes associated with severe shortness of breath. Asthma attacks can be fatal if not recognized or treated appropriately, so it’s important to discuss a plan of action with your care team.

Are there ways to avoid or minimize attacks?

Using inhalers appropriately, minimizing exposure to triggers like smoke, dust and other allergens and monitoring your symptoms are a few ways to minimize the frequency and severity of attacks. In addition, therapies may need to be escalated with changes of season, so it’s important to talk to your care team about preventative options.

What should I do if a loved one is having an attack?

If a loved one is having an asthma attack, help them with their rescue inhaler or nebulizer. If there is no improvement, however, you should call 911 immediately.

Are there any treatment options available?

Asthma is treated with various inhaled medications and the treatment is based on frequency of symptoms. If a patient is having symptoms at night, or more often than once a week, they are usually placed on an asthma controller medicine which is taken daily to prevent and control asthma symptoms. This medication usually contains a steroid that reduces inflammation in the airway and helps the airway to heal. For acute asthma symptoms, patients are normally instructed to take a rescue inhaler that can help open their airways and allow them to relax. In addition, patients may also be placed on medications for allergies, post-nasal-drip and heartburn.